The Razorbacks had a tough 2008-2009 season, and hopes and expectations were that the Hogs would have a better 2009-2010. A big reason everyone believed the Hogs would make progress this season was because of the return of Micheal Washington.
Washington was the highlight of last season. He had been a role player the previous season, and nobody knew how good he could be once given the starting role.
He did not disappoint becoming a double-double machine; he had the most in a season since Derek Hood. Washington earned second team All-SEC honors following his junior season, and entered his name into the NBA Draft. Hog fans nerves shored as everyone believed he would head to the NBA after his breakout season.
As Washington tested the waters his feedback varied from source to source. Many believed he would go in the late first round, while some boards had him in the second. There were also boards that did not have Washington on their list at all.
After taking all of his NBA feedback into consideration Washington decided with his family to withdrawal his name from the draft and return to Arkansas for his senior season, and at the time things looked like they could only get better for Arkansas.
The Hogs returned all five starters from a year ago, and would be adding much needed depth with their incoming recruiting class. It was believed that the Hogs could be a much-improved team, and make a run at the NCAA tournament. Washington was named a preseason first team All-SEC player.
As it turns out the Razorbacks are relying heavily on those incoming players while they have had only one of the returning starters in Rotnei Clarke consistently in the lineup. Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh have been on suspension most of the season, while Welsh has recently returned. Fortson is back in practice but is not expected to play in a game until after the first semester ends.
Washington was having a slow start to his senior year, and his numbers are down considerably from a year ago. He is now listed as day-to-day after injuring his back, which also plagued him a year ago. Not much has been said on his injury, but many Hog fans and myself believe Washington played through the injury because of the depth issues the Hogs have had to start the season.
Another starter Michael Sanchez just returned after missing the first of the season with foot troubles. Sanchez has had very little impact so far in his career, and helps the Razorbacks merely with depth at this point.
So the Hogs are hobbled to say the least, and off to one of the worst starts in program history. All this begs the question: Did Michael Washington make a mistake returning for his senior season? Will this cost him a chance at an NBA career?
All early indications are that it did.
Like I stated his numbers are down, and the team is worse off than a year ago. Washington also has not garnered near the hype from analysts that he did a year ago. In the Razorbacks game against Louisville Bob Knight made a comment that Washington should stay in school a few more years. Well this is his senior season and his last chance to impress, but we all get what Knight was saying.
He does not think Washington is ready for the NBA.
On the bright side it is possible that Washington has been trying to be a team player, and has been playing through injury, which could be the cause of his numbers decline. If that is the case, and he makes a strong return for the remainder of the season, it is possible he could play his way back into the draft board talks.
This is a subject that usually you hear the other way around; he should have stayed another year. It is not all that often that the tables are turned, but in the case of Michael Washington it appears that he should have forgone his senior season and entered the NBA Draft. The current state of the Hogs team and their struggles very well may have caused Washington an NBA career.
While Washington may or may not have made it to the NBA in the draft last year, odds were on him being drafted. Now it appears Washington will have to come back and have a monster remainder of the season to have any chance at the NBA, but hindsight is always 20/20.